Archive for September, 2007

Build Your Own Car – After the MOT

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

I felt elated. To build your own car is an achievement, but to have a professional mechanic give positive comments and to pass the MOT was the icing on the cake.

On the drive home from the garage, I noticed that the water temperature gauge was starting to rise at an alarming rate. I thought, only about four miles to go, so keep on and investigate when I got home. Wrong!! There was a loud hiss from under the bonnet and clouds of steam.

The overheated Gentry

One of the convoluted hoses had decided to burst. I let the engine cool down and wrapped a piece of rag around the offending hose. The water was topped up and I continued the drive back home with no further problems. My first job was to check all of the plumbing and I ended up replacing all of the the convoluted hose with proper reinforced radiator hose. It meant I had to fabricate more pieces of copper pipe to accommodate the hoses I had available. Before I did this, I went to the post office across the road to get my road tax. This was on a Saturday and the post office closed at 1pm. I arrived ten minutes before they closed, armed with my V5 registration document on which I had changed the body type from a four seater saloon to a two seater sports car and the name was changed to a Triumph Gentry. This would be forwarded to the DVLA by the post office after they had issued the tax disc. I also had the insurance certificate and the MOT certificate. I presented them to the post mistress along with the appropriate fee. She was what is known as a “Jobsworth”. “I can’t give you a tax disc. You will need to send the V5 back to the DVLA yourself as you have changed the body of the car”. After some persuasion, she reluctantly issued the disc and agreed that it wasn’t a problem and they would forward the V5 to the DVLA.

I now had a road legal car that I had built myself. The reflectors were found and fitted to the rear bumper as requested by the MOT mechanic. A few weeks later, I received a letter from the DVLA. I was expecting it to be my registration document updated with the changes I had made to the car. Instead it was a letter from the local office asking if they could inspect the vehicle. I telephoned the the office and arranged for the inspector to come and look at the car. I had no idea why they needed to do this, but he turned up at the appointed time (with his dog) and said that it was necessary to check the identity of the car. It was possible that if there were not enough parts used from the original donor vehicle it would need to be re-registered with a “Q” registration number. These are issued when the age of the vehicle cannot be accurately determined. As this was a TF replica, I didn’t like the idea of a “Q” plate as it detracted from the authenticity of the car. He also needed to see the receipts for the parts that had been bought and for the donor vehicle to make sure that it wasn’t built of stolen parts. He was a really nice guy and incredibly helpful. As far as he was concerned, there was no problem and he would arrange for the issue of the changed registration document. He also made some very nice comments about the car.

About a week later the registration document arrived, so the Gentry was finally completely legal. My next jobs on the car were to sort out the rear suspension and do the trimming.

Come back for the next installment
Til then, have a, or check out Ebay to see what kitcars, specials and replicas are available.

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Build Your Own Car – The Gentry Has Its MOT

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

To build your own car requires dedication, time and patience. Fortunately I have all of these in abundance. Well maybe two out of three:-)
Below is a picture of the car just before we set off for the MOT. Click for larger image.

The Gentry On the day of the MOT

We arrived at the garage and parked the car outside. The mechanic who was doing the test had a good look round the car to make sure there was nothing obvious wrong. After satisfying himself that the car looked OK he started the test. First thing was the braking efficiency. The car was driven on to the rolling road and I sat in the car following his instructions to hit the brake pedal when he asked me to. First the front brakes, balance OK, efficiency well within the limit of the test. Next rear brakes and again no problems. Finally the handbrake which also passed. So far so good. Off the rolling road and the exhaust emission tests. No problem there. Headlights next. The aim was slightly out as I had set them up by eye, sticking a piece of tape on a garage door and adjusting the beam. This was easily corrected with a few turns of a screwdriver until they were correct. Indicators OK, side lights OK, indicators OK. Horn fine. He now needed to check the underside of the car for any problems, so it was up onto the four poster lift with me still inside

.On to the fourposter

Checking the steering

In the photo above, the front wheels were raised so the steering and front joints could be checked for wear and play. All the steering joints were new so no problems. The wheel bearings and oil seals were also new so again OK. He also checked the run of the brake pipes to make sure there was no chance of them fouling on the suspension or bodywork. The same with the fuel pipes.

Top of the lift

The lift was then taken to the top and he continued to inspect the underside. Chassis OK, could I wiggle the steering wheel from side to side. He checked all of the other steering joints and found no problems. Pull the handbrake on and off. Again no problems. Push the brake pedal up and down. All OK.

Fairly confident!!

At this stage everything seems to be going well , although from the look on my face and that of the mechanic you wouldn’t think so!! The car was then lowered back down to the ground and the mechanic went off to do the paperwork. Had it passed?

The Celebration


He was impressed with the quality of the build and congratulated me on what I had achieved. The only thing that he could have failed it on was the fact I had forgotten to fit rear reflectors. I had them, but it had just slipped my mind. He issued the MOT certificate on the condition that I would fit them as soon as I got home.

More to follow….

Meanwhile, why not have a, or check out Ebay to see what cars are available.
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Build Your Own Car – The Saga Continues

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

I have to say that when I lusted after an MG TF and someone had said to me “Why don’t you build your own car”, I would have thought they were crazy. Although both my father and brother were engineers, I was to put it mildy, useless. I was hopeless at school in both woodwork and metalwork. Give me a piece of wood and some tools and you would end up with a pile of sawdust and shavings. Give me some metal and tools and you would end up with a small pile of swarf and scrap.

Back to the story. From what you have read so far, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is all going rather well and the progress is quick. Wrong!! The build of the Gentry continued over two years, each week doing a little bit more.

Various brackets had to be fabricated, the brake and clutch pedals needed to be modified,, bumper irons were made. I seem to remember the body being on and off the chassis several times. One of the biggest challenges was finding an exhaust system that would fit. At a rally, I managed to find a complete system for a Bond 2 litre which was brand new and with very little modification was persuaded to fit. Another problem was the cooling system. I mentioned before that it used a Morris marina radiator and a Triumph Spitfire header tank. The header tank was required to get the water above the engine so that I would get a decent flow and the engine wouldn’t overheat. With this combination, it was impossible to get standard hoses to fit, so I went to a local motor factors and rummaged through their odds and ends hose box. I took away a selection of the correct bore and cobbled together the system, also using bits of copper pipe and some convaluted hose. All seemed fine and the engine stayed at the correct temperature.

Wiring was not too bad as I could use the original loom that came from the Bond with a bit of modification. The instrument panel used all of the original instruments, but the speedo had to be re-calibrated to match the GT6 diff.

Straps had to be made to hold the Spitfire petrol tank, but it fitted beautifully. Initially I used the seats from the bond, but had to modify the sub-frames to fit them.

The windscreen was fitted using the very nice cast alloy brackets that were supplied with the kit. Fitting the wipers was difficult. Getting the motor in exactly the right position and cutting down the rack to the correct length so the wipers wiped the screen and not the bonnet!!

All of the trim was removed from the car, along with the windscreen and was then taken on a trailer to a bodyshop to be sprayed. I had thought about the colour for a long time and had decided on Old English White, as far as I was concerned the classic colour for the TF. I seem to remember that the paint was a two part mix, as the bodyshop didn’t think it was a great idea to spray with cellulose and then bake the glass fibre body in the oven. The car was then re assembled with no interior finishing done and the old Triumph steel wheels. I was saving the wires to fit once I had done the interior trim.
By now, my other half was getting fed up with me spending so much time on it and said you’ve played with it long enough. Get it on the road.

So, I bit the bullet and booked it in for the MOT (UK road worthiness test). This was before you had to have an SVA (Single Vehicle Approval) test. The MOT was far less stringent. I set off for the test, with my other half and my boss following behind. The car drove like a dream, the only thing I didn’t like was the ride was a bit on the hard side and the rear end looked too high off the road. More about this to follow.

Next instalment, the MOT.
Meanwhile, why not have a, or check out Ebay to see what cars are available.
Are you looking for kit car or special insurance? These folks are specialists.

Build Your Own Car – The Gentry Arrives

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Build your own car Part 3

As you may be able to see from the photos in the previous entry, the house I lived in had an attached garage which like many attached garages in the UK was SMALL!! There was no way I could build a car in the confined space that was available, but luck was on my side. The electronics company I worked for had as it’s manufacturing base what used to be an old garage. It was a very old building on two floors, the top floor being the production and office area and the basement comprised of several units, not all of which were being used. The wonderful managing director said that I could have one of the units to build my car in. I chose the one with the inspection pit.

Now with somewhere to build the car, I placed my order with RMB for the kit. If you would like to see the history of the Gentry, While waiting for the kit to arrive, I took the opportunity to strip the Vitesse engine down to check it out. The bores were slightly worn so I decided to have it re-bored and get new pistons. I also had the crankshaft polished and fitted new bearing shells and oil seals. I now had a re-built, freshly painted engine to fit in the car. I also decided to buy a second-hand rear axle from a Triumph GT6 and the ratio was better. This was drained, cleaned up and painted as was the gearbox. I also stripped down the suspension which was cleaned and painted. Among the Triumph bits and pieces I had collected over the years was a set of wire wheels. These were sandblasted, painted and lacquered. Two of the hub adaptors were worn, but I managed to find new replacements at a reasonable price. The spinners were re-chromed. New tyres were fitted to the wheels. A friend of mine who is an ace mechanic, fabricated new brake pipes for me from cupro-nickel. I didn’t want them to rust. The front brake callipers were stripped down, cleaned and fitted with new seals as were the rear cylinders. New pads and shoes were fitted. Everything was assembled on to the chassis, so I now had a rolling chassis which could be wheeled around.

try Chassis

A tip for anyone who needs lifting gear for getting engines in and out of cars. I went to a ships chandler and bought some heavy nylon cord, normally used for rigging sailing boats and some blocks and pulleys. This allowed me to lift the engine into the chassis without too much effort.

After a few weeks, the kit arrived and four of us lifted it off the lorry that had delivered it. The brilliant thing about this kit was it didn’t need a great deal of assembly. The body was in one piece with the doors fitted. It was painted in grey primer and would just need very light rubbing down before it was painted. The only thing that wasn’t fitted was the windscreen.

The Gentry Bodyshell

All I had to do now was to fit the body on to the chassis. This involved cutting off the side rails and shortening the outriggers. Once this was done, four of us lifted the body onto the chassis. The body had angle iron down each side where it met the chassis. Holes were drilled through the chassis so that the body could be bolted on. At each mounting point there were rubber pads between the body and the chassis.

It the kit instructions was a list of suggested parts required to complete the car, so if was off to the breakers yards to seek them out. Mini door handles, Triumph Spitfire petrol tank and filler cap, Triumph Spitfire header tank, Morris Marina radiator,Morris Minor bumpers and over riders (these were re-manufactured pattern ones), Hillman Imp wiper motor, Morris Minor rear lamps, MG Magnette grill. plus many other bits and pieces. One interesting thing was the headlights. The instructions said use Morris minor chrome bezels. They didn’t fit the body as they were slightly large, so at great expense I bought Lotus Elan bezels and fitted them to Ford 105E Anglia sealed beam units.

Just found a photo of one of those funny little Bond three wheelers. I believe this one had a 250cc engine and you had to kick start it through the bonnet!!

Bond 3 wheeler

To be continued ………..

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Build Your Own Car – The Demise of the Bond

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Welcome to Build Your Own Car Part 2.

The Bond was a great car and even with the 1.6 litre lump still performed well. It always used to get admiring looks from people who couldn’t work out what it was. “Is it Italian?” “It can’t be British!” “Who makes it?” etc etc. They were surprised when I told them it was a Bond. “Aren’t they they company who make those funny little three wheelers?” Yes, they do make those funny little three wheelers, but they also make this and a smaller version called the GT4S.

I digress. The Bond served me well for two years, but then the dreaded MOT decided it wasn’t fit for the road.

Sad Bond 1

You can see from the above, major work.

Sad Bond 2
Nice chassis, shame about the body!!

No problem I thought, I’ll just rebuild it. So, the body was taken off the chassis, remember when you could do that? The chassis needed a couple of outriggers replacing and also the two tail sections. New pattern parts were bought and welded on. It also required a couple of patches on the main backbone, but nothing too serious. I then looked at the body. The floor pan at the rear needed some repairs done and the windscreen surround was also rotten. I found another 2 litre Bond which I used for parts, grinding off the windscreen surround and welding it on to my car. Meanwhile, the chassis had gone off to be sandblasted, zinc metal coated and then painted with epoxy paint. My thought was, that will now last forever. Back to the body shell. It all seemed to going well until I got to the doors. The doors on the 2 litre Bond are a concoction of Vitesse/Herald inners and a Bond outer (made of steel). The inners were fine, but the outers were beyond repair. This was also the case with the doors from the other car I had bought. I attempted to locate some repair panels, but had no luck.

So what to do?

I looked at what I had that was good.
Rear axle

What was bad?

The body.

Then it came to me. There must be some way I could use the good bits and build my own car. I looked at the various kitcar magazines that were on the magazine shelves of the newsagent and bought most of them. Somewhere someone must make a kit that will fit either the Triumph Herald or Vitesse chassis. Then I saw it. The RMB Gentry!! All my dreams had come true. It was a replica of the car I loved most as a kid and never thought I would be able to have. The MG TF.

All I had to do now was to save up the cash to buy the kit, which was around £800.00, (can’t remember exactly).

Meanwhile, I came across a Bond GT4S at a very silly price. No MOT, non-runner, but the body and chassis were excellent. And only £100!! A friend and myself towed it home and with very little work, brake pads, news points plugs and condenser, an MOT and she was on the road.

Bond GT4S

Apologies for the picture quality!!

Part 3 to follow.

Meanwhile, why not have a

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Build Your Own Car – How It All Started

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

If you want to build your own car, then read on.

When I was a kid, back in the 1950’s, I was bought up when cars looked like cars. I loved the flowing lines, particularly the sportscars. One of my absolute favourites was the MG TF, which for me was how a sportscar should look. My dream was one day to own a car like that. As the years went by, and the TF became rarer and more expensive it seemed my dream would never come true.

I went through the usual array of old bangers, bought for £50, and the thought of the TF went to the back of my mind. Some of the cars I owned, I wish I still had as they have now become collectible classics.

What were they? My very first vehicle was a Ford Thames 15cwt van. This was bought because I was in a band and we needed transport to carry our gear to gigs. Other vehicles owned were a side valve Morris Oxford, a pre-war Austin 8, a Ford Consul, a MK1 Ford Cortina, and a whole array of Triumphs including 7 Heralds including a coupe and an estate with a 2 litre Vitesse engine and a Spitfire. All very much run of the mill cars.

Then I saw my first Bond Equipe GT 2 litre. I fell in love with it. I kept looking at the ads in the Exchange and Mart and finally bought one for £300. Basically the Equipe was built using the Triumph Vitesse chassis and running gear, but clothed in a fibre glass body. The one I bought was the coupe model (they made a convertible as well) and had a 2 litre straight six engine .

Bond Equipe GT 2 Litre

This isn’t a picture of my car, mine was black. Very sexy.

When I went for a test drive, the guy seemed very keen on showing me how loud the radio was. What with that and the load exhaust, I didn’t notice the noise coming from the engine. I guess you know where this is going. Yep, the engine was shot. It was burning oil and the ends were not very happy. I’m a little wiser now when I buy a car. Anyway, a couple of months later I managed to find a low mileage 1.6 Vitesse engine at a breakers yard at a reasonable price, so this was fitted in the car.

I’m sure that you’re wondering what the heck has this got to do with building your own car. All will be revealed in the next episode:-)

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